The Best Dropper Posts for Your Mountain Bike
Which dropper seatpost is the best for your bike? We took six popular, top rated models and put them to the test via our side-by-side comparison challenges while riding around Lake Tahoe. These posts took a good beating while we climbed and peddled over roots and ladders, thumbs always on the trigger to adjust the saddle height. While we do love testing on demanding terrain, such as the landing after that upcoming rock drop, we also focused on evaluating the smoothness at which each seatpost actuates. Keep scrolling to join the revolution and read our full review.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Mountain Bike Dropper Seatpost
Thomson Elite Covert
Thomson waited a while to add a dropper to their lineup. They spent more time on research and development, and nailed it on their first try. Thomson is proud of their dropper and you should be equally proud to add their Thomson Covert Elite to your mountain bike. With a two-year cartridge service interval, you're more apt to spend time riding your dropper post than fixing it. The soft, easy saddle return rate is smooth and predictable at .3 meters per second. Despite a fixed return speed, we discovered during our testing that it is possible to modulate return by partially depressing the remote lever and "feathering" the saddle back up. Upon fully extending the post, your underside is greeted with a gentle, damped return during the last 15mm of travel. At 592 grams, the Thomson was towards the middle of the weight category of the droppers we tested. At $480, this was the most expensive dropper post we tested, but reliability is often worth a few more bucks. Quality, precision engineering is what made Thomson an industry leader and they carried on that tradition with the Covert Elite seatpost.
Dampened return speed
Very little free movement
Long service intervals
Remote snugs up to grips
No 150mm version
Non-serviceable hydraulic cartridge
Best Bang for the Buck
Giant Contact Switch
Dropper seatposts are expensive. If you haven't had a bike with a dropper yet, you might be questioning what all the rage is about. We have the perfect solution for you and this is definitely no compromise. It's rare that the least expensive option ($280) is one of the best, but that's what we discovered in the Giant Contact Switch. An often overlooked option outside of being spec'd on Giant mountain bikes, this post should start being added to more shopping carts. Unfortunately, the unique capability to run this post as externally or internally routed is only available to those with seattube diameters of 30.9mm. If you've got the right bike, you're in luck. The versatile design allows you to keep this dropper seatpost if you upgrade to an internally routed frame. The post movement is smooth and the speed is set and cannot be altered. An internal cartridge controls the post and is easily replaceable and readily available if something malfunctions.
Routes internally or externally
Sealed cartridge cheap/easy to replace
Only available in 30.9mm diameter
Cartridge cannot be serviced
Top Pick for "Down n' Dirty" Riding
Rock Shox Reverb Stealth
Rock Shox pioneered "stealth" cable routing that is quickly becoming the norm for dropper posts, particularly with the Rock Shox Reverb Stealth. The small, hydraulic remote provides unparalleled control and return action that can be adjusted over a spectrum of speeds to suit every rider. Hydraulic fluid is limited to the XLoc remote, hydraulic hose, and small portion within the post where it acts on the main valve. The air spring that returns the post to full extension is separated from the other internal workings. Post oil flows between the inner and outer tubes, making up and down motion smooth and keeping the wiggles at bay. This closed system is a great choice for wet and muddy conditions; foreign matter will not affect the hydraulic lines. The Reverb was not without faults as ours developed a bit of unwanted "travel," although a bleed is typically all it takes to resolve the issue. Rock Shox is continually perfecting the design and a new version was recently released that hopes to address any reliability issue from in the past.
Adjustable rebound speed
No dirty or gummed up cable
Slow rebound in very cold temps
Field repair unlikely
Best for Specific Applications
The Reverb is a solid choice if you end most rides with dirt and mud packed into every nook and cranny. Although it's hard to compete with the smooth action provided by a hydraulic system, you could be left in the dust during a race if anything happens to the hydraulic line. A crash could leave you stuck with a fully dropped post; it's an unlikely scenario, so the risk may be worthwhile, but serious enduro racers may opt for a more field-repair friendly unit such as the KS Lev, Thomson, or Giant. Those up in the air on whether they prefer a multi-position or infinitely adjustable dropper should consider the Specialized Command Post IRCC. Though we contested the 10 Cruiser Control increments stating they felt more like three or four positions, the post still has an obvious middle stop.
Analysis and Test Results
Dropper posts may be one of the most important innovations for mountain bikes to come along in the last 10 years, changing the way people ride. We remember the day our early-adopter riding buddy showed up with a dropper seatpost about eight years ago; everyone has this friend and maybe you're even that person. You know, the type that waits in line for the newest iPhone the day it gets released. Always on the latest, greatest gear, despite not working in a bike shop. We remember the day because we spent the entire ride making fun of him. I mean, how much effort does it take to get off your bike at the top of the climb and lower your seat manually for the downhill? And how much did that ridiculous thing cost? Wait, you made your bike heavier on purpose?
Looking around at our riding crew these days, the ratio has been turned on its head. All but one is riding a bike with a dropper post. Our Luddite friend is on a rigid, steel single speed and he sure as heck isn't using Strava or wearing a Garmin on his wrist. As we cruise downhill with the casinos of Lake Tahoe just below, a good bet would be that he'll be riding a dropper post before running gears or a suspension fork.
Perhaps the best argument for getting a dropper seat post is this real-world anecdote that happened during our testing. Bike testers Luke and Karl were out for a ride on a trail that is predominantly downhill but with some short, mildly steep sections of climbing in the middle. Luke was on the Pivot Mach 6, which does not have a dropper post, and Karl was on the Santa Cruz Nomad C, which comes stock with the Rock Shox Reverb Stealth. Luke is usually a slightly faster rider downhill, and he was flying along on the Mach 6 until he came to one of the short climbs. He had lowered his seat post dramatically at the beginning of the trail so he could lean his weight back on the down. When he reached the short uphill, he realized he couldn't get an efficient pedal stroke, so he stood up to power it out, zapping his leg strength. Karl was cruising along on the Nomad, also with the seat lowered. He reached the short climb, hit the lever to raise his seat, and casually passed Luke as he struggled uphill. "How's that lack of a dropper going for ya?"
Types of dropper posts
The main difference in dropper seatpost function can be found in their adjustability. Dropper posts are either infinitely adjustable or multi-positional. Infinitely adjustable posts allow the user to stop the post at any place along its travel. The rider can "slam" the post for downhills or fully extend it for uphill; anywhere in between is fair game and the post can be stopped or dropped at will for varied rolling terrain. Multi-position posts typically have three stops. The post can be all the way down, all they way up, or partially dropped in a "mid" position.
Most posts are cable activated, though the Rock Shox Reverb Stealth is activated hydraulically. As of now, the Reverb is the only hydraulic post available.
Criteria for Evaluation
The chart below shows the overall rankings of the six dropper posts we put to the test around Lake Tahoe, with the Thompson Elite Covert coming out on top.
Remotes tend to be of two different varieties. Both the Specialized Command Post IRCC and Fox D.O.S.S. feature remotes that function and look much like a front shifter. The other four droppers we tested used vertically actuated remotes. All the remotes we tested were thumb actuated by either pushing in on the shifter-style remotes or pressing down on the vertically actuated types.
Of all the remotes we tested, the Specialized Command Post remote was our favorite. Nearly everyone is familiar with the function of a front shifter as the trend of ditching front derailleurs in favor of a single chainring (1x) drivetrain has only emerged in the last few years. The Specialized remote mimics the function and look of a front shifter. It's easy to push and the rider never compromises their grip on the handlebars when activating the post. This remote mates with SRAM brakes or shifters, allowing for a super clean, clutter free handlebar for those running the appropriate componentry. We didn't test it, but this post also ships with a vertically actuated remote as well, for those running a front shifter.
By contrast, the least favorite remote among all was the Fox D.O.S.S. This remote was big and clunky and it features a dual lever design that was unfamiliar to riders. The smaller black lever that sits inboard of the larger silver one is used only to access the middle position. We never really had any trouble finding the middle position on the Specialized and felt the extra lever to be unnecessary; this lever can also be run on the top side of the handlebars if your bike has a front derailleur. When we set it up this way on our Pivot Mach 6, we found it hard to reach, and our grip was compromised, making rough or unfamiliar terrain pretty sketchy. It's probably no coincidence that the newly released Fox Transfer features revamped remote options (shifter style or vertically actuated) and does away with the dual paddle design.
All the remaining droppers we tested had fairly similar vertical levers, except for the Rock Shox Reverb Stealth that stood alone as the only dropper post to use a hydraulic remote. They each took up roughly the same amount of space on the bars. The KS LEV Integra remote that comes with their dropper posts (that are stocked per the manufacturer on complete bike) is polycarbonate. The others were alloy and this remote has a fairly cheap feel to it. If you buy the KS LEV aftermarket however, it has an alloy remote that mounts to ODI lock-on grips.
The hydraulic remote on the Reverb is pretty sweet, providing a super smooth return quality to the post. Because it's hydraulic, if you damage it out on a ride, there's probably no fixing it unless you roll with a very extensive repair kit.
We may have invented a word here, but we trust you'll understand what we're going for; basically, it's the quality and feel of the post when it cycles through its range. The purely mechanical Fox D.O.S.S had the most pronounced return. When reaching the mid and top positions, it did so with an audible clunk. It wasted no time in reaching each position either, with swift and crisp action. Some riders preferred the top-out noise as an additional sensory que as to the position of their saddle. The Specialized post was nearly as fast and audible as the Fox, but this post features an air valve just below the saddle clamp that allows the rider to alter the return speed slightly.
Return rate on the Thomson Elite Covert, the Editors' Choice award winner, cannot be altered and is set at 0.3 meters per second. It was the quietest of the group, with some riders finding it to be a bit slow for their taste. The last 15mm of return is dampened and gives a soft feel compared to many others when the saddle tops out in range. The Rock Shox Reverb Stealth is silky smooth, in the same way that hydraulic brakes are smoother than rim brakes; return speed can easily be adjusted by a dial at the end of the remote. No matter how fast or slow you like your return speed, the Reverb, our Top Pick award winner, will cater to your needs.
The chart below displays the scores each dropper seatpost received in the saddle clamp metric.
Most saddle clamps in the test were quite similar, except for the Specialized, which was the only dropper post to use a single bolt design; all other posts incorporated two bolts to secure the saddle. Generally speaking, two bolts are better than one, but we found exception in the innovative Specialized clamp. A single bolt is used to secure the saddle rails by pulling each side tight against an arch; the location that the saddle is tightened around (the arch) then determines the angle of the saddle. Unlike the Reverb and KS LEV, the air port for the Specialized was located on the front of the post, just below the saddle clamp, making it easy to access. The Reverb and KS LEV place the air port directly beneath the saddle clamp, necessitating removal of the saddle to add or subtract air.
The only saddle clamp we really took issue with was the KS LEV; it creaks like my grandmother's arthritic knees! Throughout the day her knees eventually loosen up and so do the bolts on the LEV. Good for grandma. Bad for seatposts.
Cyclists can be a pretty weight-conscious group. The amount of money some people spend to shave a few measly grams can be downright ludicrous. Unless you use a lead pipe for a seatpost, adding a dropper post to your bike WILL make it heavier. It will also make you better. We weighed each dropper seatpost as installed on each of our test bikes. Weight included remote, post, cable and housing. Given posts were on different bikes, we realize there are variations from what the manufacturers state, resulting from different cable and housing length, diameter, travel, etc. We didn't rate this metric very heavily, but felt it was worthy of inclusion.
Aside from increased reliability, we believe significant weight reduction will be one of the biggest focuses on future advances in dropper technology. The Fox dropper was the heftiest at 683 grams; the large remote certainly doesn't help keep weight down. All the others were a bit closer in weight, with the Kind Shock LEV performing the best in this category (if weight is your thing), weighing in at 562 grams. Of the award winners. the Top Pick Rock Shox Reverb Stealth was the lightest at 573 grams. The Thomson Elite Covert, our Editors' Choice winner, weighed in at 592 grams followed by our Best Buy winner from Giant at 617 grams.
Ease of Set-up
Check out the chart below to see how we rated the Ease of Setup for each seatpost. While the Fox D.O.S.S. lagged behind in overall ranking, it scored highest on our Ease of Setup metric.
We failed to mention the trick to getting your dropper post properly set up in any of the individual reviews, so we'll share it now. Once you purchase your dropper post, bring it down to your local bike shop (along with a six-pack) and ask them to install it for you. Pro tip: don't tell them you need it in an hour. When they call you and tell you your bike is ready, pick it up and ride it. You'd probably saved a few bucks shopping online for your new dropper post in your pajamas, but a good bike shop is invaluable to your local riding community. Patronize them.
If you just have to do everything yourself, definitely buy yourself a pair of bicycle cable and housing cutters. By now you've probably realized you're spending a fortune on all the special tools that are good for nothing else but working on bikes. They'll get you either way. Nobody said this was a cheap hobby. Might we suggest running? A proper cutter will put a perfect cut on your housing, which will allow cables to run free of pinches or crimps. For hydraulic lines, precision is even more important.
Seatposts that have the barrel end of the cable originating at the bottom (of the post) were easier to setup. The Thomson Elite, our Editors' Choice award winner, and Giant Contact Switch, our Best Buy award winner, are such examples. The barrel hooks into some sort of actuation arm and then runs through the frame then the remote. Turn the bars to ensure there's enough slack, run the cable through the remote, and secure the cable. There are lots of great online videos for each of these posts that make installation much less daunting for the DIY mechanic. Even the Rock Shox Reverb hydraulic dropper post is not out of reach for the average user. In fact, learning how to bleed your Reverb will save you money in the long run.
A crucial innovation for mountain bikes, dropper posts give the ability to adjust your bike saddle repeatedly throughout your ride to match any certain terrain. With the different types of these seatposts on the market, it can be difficult to know which option will best suit your needs. Choosing between infinitely adjustable or multi-positional is the first step, while other factors such as weight and the type of remote will also need to be taken into account. We hope that our in-depth look at these seatposts has helped you to find the best option for your ride. If you are wanting more information about what to keep in mind during your search, head over to our Buying Advice article.
— Sean Cronin
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